Sushi Survival Guide: Healthiest and Unhealthiest Choices for Your Diet

If I had to pick one food that I go to as my favorite Friday night welcome-the-weekend treat, it would be sushi. Sure, I love pizza and any number of other diet-crashing foods, but when it comes down to it, sushi is my favorite.

The good news is that sushi happens to be a healthy option… usually. Even with a cuisine centered around lean fish, there are many ways that you can make your meal a caloric nightmare.

The general rule to making healthy choices at your favorite sushi restaurant is to keep it simple. As the sushi dish gets more ingredients, the likelihood that your meal will be high in calories is much greater.

Let’s take a look at some of the more popular sushi recipes and the corresponding nutritional values. Remember, these are estimates since every restaurant will prepare their sushi slightly different:

California Roll: The Beginner’s Sushi Choice

This is what I consider the best introduction to sushi for the uninitiated. There’s no raw fish, if you’re still a little wary about it, and the ingredients are pretty “middle of the road.” California rolls usually contain cucumbers, avocado and crab meat, wrapped in seaweed and white rice.

The California Roll is cut into about six pieces and it has about 300 calories and 7 grams of fat, the latter of which mostly comes from the avocado. It’s not a terrible diet choice, but the beauty of sushi is that it’s great for sharing. Why not get a California Roll and split it with someone you’re dining with? That way, it won’t be so difficult to make other choices in your meal.

Tuna or Salmon Roll

Remember when I said keep it simple? Tuna and salmon rolls prepared in the maki sushi-style is where the nori seaweed is wrapped around a layer of rice and in the middle is the tuna or salmon.

Both the tuna and salmon rolls are as simple as they come: seaweed, a little rice, and raw fish. Either one is a standby order for me and comes in at only about 185 calories (slightly more with salmon due to higher fat content). There’s very little sodium, but that’s usually made up for by dipping it in soy sauce. Make sure to choose the low-sodium variety.


You can’t get much leaner than sashimi – raw fish on its own. If you’d prefer to skip the rice, here are some choices and how many calories are in each piece:

  • Yellowfin tuna: 120 calories in four ounces
  • Salmon: 160 calories in four ounces
  • Hamachi (yellowtail): 165 calories in four ounces
  • Saba (mackerel): 230 calories in four ounces

Now for the Diet Disasters

While it may seem like a fail-safe dining choice, there are plenty of high-calorie choices you can make at a sushi restaurant. Some are fried, while others have sauces and even cream cheese next to your lean fish! Here are some of the higher calorie choices:

  • Spicy Tuna Roll (10 oz.): 460 calories 9 grams of fat
  • Shrimp Tempura Roll: 508 calories, 21 grams of fat
  • Dragon Roll (eel, avocado, shrimp tempura and masago (fish eggs): 520 calories, 18 grams of fat
  • JB Roll (salmon and cream cheese): 520 calories, 20 grams of fat

If it’s a night out and you can afford to let loose a little, have at it. Explore the sushi menu as you please, but if you’re looking to moderate your caloric intake, remember, stick to the simple sushi items and you will be just fine.

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